The Importance of Staying Active During the Winter Months

Winter can be a tough time to maintain your exercise routine, particularly for those without a gym membership. With less daylight hours, cold temperatures, and the ever-present drizzle of the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to lose your motivation.

“The advantages of regular exercise are too great to be put on hold when workouts become inconvenient, especially during colder months,” explains Joseph Giaimo, DO, an osteopathic board-certified internal medicine physician. “People who exercise reduce their risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis.”

Winter “blues”

Come early fall and winter, many people find they feel some sort of seasonal depression. It’s easy this time of year to go into “hibernation” mode, socially withdraw, and stay home where it’s cozy. Seasonal depression makes the desire to exercise decrease, yet physical activity helps to combat the “blue” feelings. Try to make an effort to get in 30 minutes of brisk activity each day during the winter. Once you get going, you’ll find that you will likely feel better post-work out.

Bring your workout routine indoors

During the cold and dark months, consider bringing your workout routine indoors. It’s easier to convince yourself to work out in the warmth and brightness of your home or office. Don’t have access to a gym? Don’t sweat it. Many ordinary objects work well for keeping in shape. Have a set of stairs nearby? Do stair sprints, squats, and lunges. Chairs work well for stretching and flexibility exercises. A trip to the local indoor pool for some aqua-aerobics or lap swimming would also be beneficial.

Get creative

While you may not want to go outside for your daily walk, try out other places to go walking. Malls, public gymnasiums, and community centers are great places to get an aerobic stroll in. Traditional winter activities like ice skating and hockey, and indoor sports such as basketball, tennis, and dancing all make great workouts. Since these activities have the added bonus of being social, you’ll be more likely to commit and stick to a routine.

Restorative activities

You may want to use the winter months to focus on restorative activities that are gentle on the body. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong can build strength, increase flexibility, and help you relax, all while improving balance and refreshing your energy levels.

Any activity counts

Cut yourself some slack during the winter months and count any activity that gets your heart rate up. Try power-shopping by walking through the store at a quick pace while running errands or doing squats while folding laundry. Other active household chores such as mopping the floors and raking leaves can also count toward your daily goals. The important part is that you are trying to stay active.

When you do go outside

When you do want to go outside for your workout, be sure to dress for the weather. Layering is essential to protect yourself from the elements, while allowing your skin to breathe and sweat. Start with a thin synthetic material, such as polypropylene, to draw sweat away from your body. Your second layer should be an insulating layer, preferably a fleece, which will keep you warm, but also allow water vapor to pass through. Finally, top with a waterproof, breathable outer layer to protect you from the winter elements. Remember you lose 90% of your body heat through your head, so wear a hat when temperatures dip. If it’s dark outside, be sure to wear reflective gear and carry a light. Surfaces may be more slippery than usual, so be sure to don sturdy shoes with good traction.

The winter months can be a challenge for keeping up your exercise routines, but they don’t have to be. With a little creativity and determination, you’ll make it to spring just in time to go back to your outdoor workout routines. Northwest Primary Care is here to help you with your fitness and health goals. Contact us for assistance with nutritional counseling, weight loss support, and general health inquiries.